SAN FRANCISCO — The Boston Celtics’ response to profitable Game 1 of the N.B.A. finals on Thursday night time was a marked distinction from the joyous celebration that they had held after profitable Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals earlier in the week. Instead of chest bumps at midcourt after the ultimate buzzer, the Celtics walked stoically off the court docket on Thursday, every participant stone-faced, some engrossed in conversations with coaches.
This stage was imagined to be too massive for these Celtics, a group, although not a franchise, that was new to the finals. There have been imagined to be jitters as soon as the sequence began for this band of principally 20-somethings going through a veteran Golden State Warriors group that has been right here loads of instances. Perhaps the Celtics would act as if that they had by no means executed this earlier than — as a result of, nicely, they hadn’t.
Yet in their 120-108 victory in Game 1, the Celtics confirmed no indication that they might shy from the strain and expectations that include taking part in in the finals. They confirmed a capability to be hit first, and exhausting, solely to get well and prevail anyway.
“We’ve been counted out all yr,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart stated. “Rightfully so. We’ve had moments. But we proceed to battle. That’s who we’re.”
Before Game 1, Celtics Coach Ime Udoka was requested if he thought finals expertise was an overrated metric for predicting success in the sequence. In answering, he famous first that he and others on his employees did have expertise in the finals, even when their gamers didn’t. But then he dismissed the premise that his group was at an obstacle even earlier than the sequence started.
“Our younger guys have had plenty of success to this point attending to the Eastern Conference finals a number of instances,” Udoka stated. “So for us: Try to simplify it, not overcomplicate it. Business as typical. Basketball as typical. The issues we did to achieve success coming right here, we’ll attempt to do extra of the identical.”
It was extra of the identical in some ways.
The Celtics endured loads of dramatic swings in the course of the common season and, extra narrowly, in these playoffs. They struggled initially of the yr, then grew to become the most popular group in the N.B.A. They absorbed blowout losses in the previous two rounds of the playoffs, in opposition to the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat, then recovered to ship blowout wins. Both sequence went to seven video games.
So in Game 1, they have been assured in their potential to get well from any drawback. Udoka acknowledged noticing some early nerves however stated he additionally noticed them dissipate as the sport progressed. Each time he regarded on the rating and noticed it was shut regardless of his group’s missteps, he took coronary heart.
Stephen Curry, for instance, scored 21 factors in the primary quarter, making six of eight 3-point makes an attempt, which set a document for 3-pointers in 1 / 4 in the finals.
“I believe I discovered plenty of house clearly in the primary quarter and simply was making an attempt to journey that wave so long as I may,” Curry stated. But Boston made changes and Curry didn’t rating in the second quarter. He completed with 34 factors.
Another Boston turnaround got here in the second half.
In the third quarter, the Warriors outscored the Celtics by 14 factors, seeming to drag away and opening a 15-point lead at one level. Golden State is legendary for its potential to dominate third quarters on its option to wins, however this time it didn’t work.
Boston made defensive changes to reply to what they’d seen in the third quarter and held Golden State to simply 16 factors in the fourth. Their offense all of a sudden regarded unstoppable. The Celtics scored 40 factors in the fourth quarter, and, at one level, Boston made seven consecutive threes. Al Horford scored 11 fourth-quarter factors and Jaylen Brown scored 10.
“The message initially of the fourth was, we’ve been right here earlier than,” Jayson Tatum stated. “We know what it takes to beat a deficit like that.”
He added: “We had plenty of time left, proper? It wasn’t time to hold your head or be executed, it was time to determine it out.”
Tatum himself proved an instance of Boston’s potential to adapt and regulate in the face of struggles. He shot 3 for 17 in the sport, however remained engaged, ending with extra assists (13) than factors (12). In the fourth quarter, the Celtics outscored Golden State by 27 factors when Tatum was on the court docket. Despite his poor taking pictures, he declared himself “ecstatic.”
“I had a foul taking pictures night time,” Tatum stated. “I simply tried to influence the sport in different methods. We’re in the championship. We’re in the finals. All I used to be frightened about was making an attempt to get a win, and we did.”
Boston swept the Nets in their first-round playoff sequence, however they have been acutely aware of the truth that in each the convention semifinals in opposition to the Bucks and the convention finals in opposition to the Heat, they misplaced Game 1 earlier than profitable the sequence. After opening the finals with a win, they have been eager to protect in opposition to falling sufferer to the reverse.
Golden State will definitely regulate to what went flawed Thursday night time. Their coach, Steve Kerr, has stated the problem of determining how to try this is his favourite half about being in the playoffs. A sequence affords the chance to strategize way more than a single recreation in the course of the common season.
Tatum was taking part in the lengthy recreation after Boston’s victory, too. He stated the Celtics had proven an inclination in previous sequence for alleviating their depth after wins, one thing they can’t afford to do in opposition to Golden State.
“This time of the season, you’re feeling nice after you win,” Tatum stated. “You really feel horrible after you lose. You received to simply have the ability to keep mellow, keep balanced, particularly this early.
“It’s removed from over, proper? It’s only one recreation. And we received to be prepared for them to reply as if we’d if we misplaced the primary recreation.”